Edwin J. F. D’Souza – Mangalorean Star
EDWIN ON EDWIN, CANDID AS EVER!
“If it is there in English fiction, why not in Konkani,” was the only argument which prompted me to give several “firsts” to Konkani literature!” says Edwin Joseph Francis DSouza, a prolific Konkani writer who has 30 published books to his credit, over a hundred short stories, columns, satires, writings of general interest and some piquant digs at the society. He writes in English too, his short stories have been published by Woman’s Era, Kuwait Times, Arab Times, Deccan Herald; one of his short stories, “A Cup of Hot Coffee” has found a place in Mr.Khuswant Singh’s collection of “Our Favorite Indian Short Stories” published by Jaico Books.
“This craze of writing was there in me right during my primary education, ” says Edwin with a nostalgic smile. “Even in the fifth standard our group of friends was obsessed with Kannada detective fiction. Apart from playing chor-police in the school, we wrote our own detective short stories on pages torn from the note books and sew them together and distributed in the class. It was our own circulating library. We were caught and reprimanded for this but very strange indeed, my very first writing in print appeared in the annual magazine of the same school in 1955.
“Once I landed in the sixth standard in the St.Aloysius College High School, there was no looking back on reading. It was just great in the High School and the then librarian Mr. Martin, still recollects the library day (it was a Wednesday, I think) bombardments from us. We went in straight for classics and by the end of our studies in 7th, 8th and 9th standards we had read almost all the classics in and out of the High School library. Les Miserables, Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Spy, Ben Hur, The Big Fisherman, The Green Light and masterpieces by Hall Cain, Marie Corelli, Taylor Caldwell, Irving Stone, Irving Wallace, Arthur Hailey and others.
“My reading of thrillers started off with Earl Stanley Gardner, Leslie Charteris, Ngio Marsh, Ellery Queen, Mickey Spillane, Edgar Wallace, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others. Needless to say, I was studying in the English medium of instruction. My late Aunt Julie Pais, who herself was teacher par excellence, set out two statutes for me in life: Read and travel. To this day I have followed these religiously. I have traveled extensively during my stint of 16 years in Kuwait and mind you these travels were not Kuwait-Bombay-Mangalore holidays.
“The Pre-University studies and the class-bunking freedom that came along with it brought in some unseen and unknown avenues of gaining knowledge. A friend of mine, Louis Mathew, a philosopher and a guide, dragged me to a book stall in Bangalore and picked up a book and shoved under my nose. ‘It is time you started reading these,’ he said to me threateningly. It was “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. This book and others by her led me into the world of objectivism and philosophical reading. Rand and The Fountainhead dominated and exuded in my every move to such an extent that my house today is named “Fountainhead.”
“Yes, I was and still am, a movie buff. Now, no matter what, one movie per night is my night cap! But in those days, I was permitted only one movie a month, that too, after my Mom had got convincing feed back to confirm the sanctity of the movie lest her only child be led into temptation! But then came a time when I went to see a movie, found it good and then I coaxed my Mom to come along with me to see it. An ardent reader, my indomitable Mom and my learned Aunt Julie instilled in me the virtue of reading, taste of good life.
“My foray into writing in Konkani has its own little history. My grandfather (whom I mention in almost all my novels in one form of character or the other!) was an fervent reader of all the Konkani periodicals, Kannada dailies; I used to watch him guffaw reading some Konkani magazines and then he started reading them out to me—some humor, comic writings on Bosthu and Pedram, Akai and Cumpadre and Chandi Bhairaas and Mundu Bhairaas and Kashti (loins cloth); no matter what he generated the interest in me to read Konkani and eventually but before long, Konkani got infused in my reading habits. This was way back in 1964 when by then, I had written some short stories in English for the children’s columns of Deccan Herald and Indian Express.
“My first ever Konkani short story appeared in 1964 in Poinnari. To see my name in print as Master Edwin D’Souza was for me a dream come true in Konkani. The story had been edited to an extent that there was no “me” in it at all but in any case, I had made my debut in into Konkani writings. There was no looking back now. The day I received a post card from Poinnari saying your story will appear in such and such issue, a vague fear gripped me. I did not sleep the whole night. What would the readers say, will they find my story related to their life, will they find a similarity, will I be grilled in the letters to the editor?
“How do I get out of this kind of feeling? There was only one way and that was to don a pen-name. I was in the 9th standard then and one fine day, my friend and classmate Eric tapped me on the shoulder and said. “You want a pen-name? Make it “Vasu Valencia!” Whatever made him say this I do not know but the name sounded so magical that I fell for it headlong. Today, Prof.Eric Patrao and I are very good friends but yet he may not remember nor believe that it was he who suggested this pen-name. Many have, after the late J.S.Alvares let the cat out of the bag by announcing that this “Vasu Valencia” is none other than Edwin JF DSouza, asked me what is the meaning of this pen-name. I have no explanation other than that this unconvincing story that the name was suggested by Eric. However, at a gathering when the same question was shot at me, the late Mr.J.B.Rasquinha came to my rescue and said. “It is simple. V-a-s-u stands for Valencia-cho Su-putr!” Valencia is the parish in which I was born in 1948 and lived there till 1990 before moving to Highlands in Milagres Parish. This good man, JB, was over-generous in interpreting the pen-name in an admirable way and confer this honor on me and if at all Eric was around, he would have danced a jig!.
“I owe a lot to J.S.Alvares. He serialized my first novel “Nimaani Sheli” (The Last Lamb) in “Jhelo” and this novel has seen three editions. He published my “Shethantlim Phulam” (The Flowers of the Field) which too has seen three printings. But I admire the man most for taking a narrow chance with his readers by publishing “Pilatan Dillem Farmann” (The Verdict of Pilate), the first ever spy-thriller in Konkani. Although I do not give a good rating to this work of mine, the same, having been printed thrice, is till considered by my readers to be the best thriller in Konkani.
“This was the time I had completed my PUC in flying colors securing a high first class and the choice of further studies fell on medicine or engineering. Believe me you, I had no proclivity for both! My mind was on books, movies, dramas and writings and of course, on girls. Nevertheless, I was packed off to R.V.College of Engineering in Bangalore and was made to lodge n board at the St. Joseph’s College Hostel in Shanti Nagar (under special privileges act of Jesuits bending the rules to accommodate a non-Josephite just because he is a Mangalorean!).
Two years of technical ‘studies’ and ten grand down the drain I packed and returned home to face my Mom and the Mangalorean society. There were ahs and oh oh-s that Stella’s son had quit his engineering and returned home. Some aristocrat ladies who (perhaps) nursed a secret dream of making me their son-in-law, now shunned me after asking, “Now what will you do, ba? I think you will do short-hand and typewriting at Sunbeam and your Uncles and Aunts will certainly take you to Kuwait. All of them are there no, ba? By the way, why did you leave, ba? You are such a brilliant boy!”
Brilliant? Perhaps yes. I was shrewd enough to quit and come from a discipline of study for which I was not cut. The famous late Mr.Pandurang Pai (Pandu master of St. Aloysius College High School) whose student I was for two years, was the only person who congratulated me for quitting and coming back.. “You are a wiser man today,” he declared. My Mom and Aunt and others (I had lost my father when I was very very young; I do not even remember seeing him. My only sister, Joan Marie, younger to me by a year and a half, had died of meningitis) took my home coming in the right spirit by asking “What next?” The ball was in my court!
I bowed down to the predictions of the Mangalorean society, joined a typewriting institute where loveliest of Mangalorean girls were coming and also joined the St.Aloysius Evening College (co-ed experience and vow!), as the youngest in the class, to do my BCom. My Mom staunchly believed that only a degree would fetch me a suitable and charming bride.
Little did she know that I had already made my choice on the 26th of December 1969 when I met petite Jane Lobo of Milagres at a literary camp conducted by Raknno. She is my wife of 30 years today.
During this same romantic period during which I courted Jane and wrote love stories, I had become very close to Jerome Cyril Veigas (Sirivanth) who had just started Sallak Publications. Sirivanth honed my writing talents, fed me with select English literature and also published some of my celebrated books. With him as the working partner I started the Gemini Printing Press under the propitious banner of my own Zodiac sign. No, it did not work out and I learnt the hard way that I am not cut to be a business man either and this lesson which made me still wiser (?) cost my Aunt a thirty grand in 1973.
By this year I had struck such a rapport with Raknno which was edited by Msgr.Alexander F.D’Souza. I owe sizeable amount of my success as a writer in Konkani to Raknno and to Msgr (as we dearly call him), Fr.Mark Waldar, Fr.Vincy Menezes and Fr.Sam Sequeira. Msgr’s only commandment then to me was to carry a red pen, to edit your own writings again and again before submitting to an editor!
Years later Raknno published, among other works of mine, “Vinchun Kadleli Porza” (The Chosen Ones), which won three awards in a row. After my home coming from Kuwait, I became the Literary Editor of Raknno when Fr.Sam Sequeira was the editor. We made a great team, I firmly believe.
Well, back to the scene after Gemini Printers….
Again the ogre rose to ask the question: What next? Well, folks, you have guessed it right, it was the Middle East for me for few rupees more. I had obtained a degree in Commerce by then (it would have shattered my folks if I had not) and armed with this degree and no experience whatsoever, I heeded to the paid visa call to Kuwait and said goodbye to Jane, my folks and my world of literature and Mangalore. It was time to shift from Will Filter Kings to Benson & Hedges!
It took four months for me to get a placement in Kuwait and I declare, those four months were the worst ever in my life. Jobless, I spent hours on the end on the Fahaheel beach, roamed endlessly and shed tears. But yet, I managed to write “Te Aiylyaath,” the first sci-fi novel in Konkani.
Landing up with a pen-pusher’s job in the private sector, I was placed behind an electric typewriter and hammering away to glory at the keys, carried home a pay packet of Kuwaiti Dinars 50/- where as my office boy earned KD45/- It was a long way up and it was worth the struggle. Coming home in October 1975, I got married to Jane in November; I was able to take her to Kuwait in March 1976 and our only child Ruth Esther was born in Kuwait in July 1978.
I worked and I wrote and it was a wonderful life till Uncle Saddam came on the 2nd of August 1990 and threw a monkey wrench in our lives. The exodus from occupied Kuwait, which followed a terror filled stay for 52 days after the invasion, was a memorable journey as you will agree after reading the first person account of the same in my “Mohnv ani Ragaath” (Honey and Blood.). This perhaps is the first ever book of this genre in Konkani.
One may also make a note that my “Hanv Xiatuam” (I Live) was the first ever book on austere objectivism in Konkani, and “Cyrrenanthlo Zudas” (The Judas of Cyrrene) was the first ever novel in Konkani to be set in an European country, Greece.
As I said right the beginning, my strong conviction was and is that, if it is there in English, we can have it in Konkani. Literature is universal. The humans are the same. The love is the same, the pains are the same. The delivery pains cannot be defined differently in India and Russia. The woman who undergoes this may differ in the way she takes it. And that is characterization at its best. Defining humans.
But I am amused to note that in spite of the above logic, I could not land my flying saucers on the Kankanady maidan and I had to invent a special island to do the same!
Okay, Kuwait was liberated and I was called back on same lucrative terms of employment by Kuwait National Petroleum Co.KSC, in March 1991. By then, we had got used to our beloved Mangalore. Ruth was going to St.Mary’s (Marjill), Jane was very very happy in our new home “Fountainhead” and I was trying to find my moorings as, a period of 16 long years away from Mangalore had taken its toll. Further, Kuwait did not hold any further charm to us.
We had planned in July 1990 that we would close shop and come home for good in March 1991. But Uncle Saddam came six months in advance and windswept our plans. Although, we came back from Kuwait with one suitcase each in one hand and our lives in the other, we found Mangalore to be a sweet and tranquil haven to spend the rest of our lives.
No, I did not venture out into any business. Joined the Rotary Club of Mangalore and it is 14 years now since we said goodbye to Kuwait. Absolutely no regrets.
Ruth got married to the boy of her choice in December 2003 and they are in Bangalore, well-settled and happy. Ruth, a MS in Communication from MIC, Manipal is in the print media and Sudhakar, an engineer from MIT Manipal is in the construction field as a graphics designer.
What do I do? How do I pass my time? These are the standard questions I hear even now. First and foremost, Jane and I do not have any spare time to pass. I am busy with my writings, my Rotary Club, my cats and dogs. Jane is busy with her Rotary Anns Club, Ladies Club and half-a-dozen other ladies’ organizations and her beautiful garden and works on her cookery books and columns.
Now our travel interests have zeroed in on Bangalore only where we travel often to spend a couple of days with Ruth and Sudhakar. It is great to be with them. The life in Mangalore has been good to us and we have been good to life.
“What about Konkani,” you may ask. “With 30 novels and all that literary work of about 40 years you have not said much about Konkani at all,” you may point out. I have to be brutally frank in formulating a reply: Konkani is my Mother tongue and because it is my Mother tongue I can think freely in the language without any limitations of mind. If I can think creatively in Konkani, I can write creatively in Konkani, that is if I have the talent. Language and talent of writing do not complement each other. Because your Mother tongue is Konkani you need not be a Konkani writer. I have shown this, of course with a limited amount of success, by writing in English too.
“I love Konkani because it is a rich language and I my endeavors to learn more and more about this Aryan language have not ceased. But I am not obsessed with this language and I have never shouted activists’ slogans nor got on the stilts to say, ‘I will die for Konkani. We should shun away from all other languages, all cultures, we should spit on those who feel shy to speak in Konkani etc’ This is sheer hypocrisy. And this hypocrisy and the recent trend of running lobbies to get awards, titles and publicity has totally suppressed the otherwise luxuriant growth of Konkani literature. It is disgusting to see so many meaningless titles being conferred on the so called ‘Konkani Lovers, those selfless people who serve Konkani, who are ready to die for Konkani’; the fact is that these titles are invented by these very same people and they even pay the organizers to have these titles conferred on them at public programs.
“My message to the writers is that they should have an open mind and expose it to the happenings in the world. Konkani literature does not mean that it should contained only the tales of Konkani speaking population. Literature is the diary of culture kept on daily basis by writers. Reading is time travel. It can take you back and forth and open parlors of unknown parameters. Language is a medium. Forget that ‘all for England’ attitude of the British. The writing talent is a divine gift which wants a medium to come out and flow freely to the readers. Ah yes, it is important to have unbiased, intelligent and prudent readers too because such readers are the ones who demand good literature. Mediocrity is created in Konkani by readers who sing praises of nitwit writers and in the process throttle the growth of Konkani literature and hamper the very development of the language. This should stop. We need good readers, good critics and then good writers will emerge, automatically.”
–Rtn.Edwin JF DSouza
Mr. Edwin Joseph Francis D’Souza’s brief profile:
Mr. D’Souza married in 1975 to Jane Lobo of Milagres, Mangalore. Together they have one child, a daughter, Ruth Esther, a MS in Communication, presently sub-editor of Vijaya Times Sunday Magazine in Bangalore.
Mr. D’Souza is a Graduate in Commerce (University of Mysore) (St. Aloysius Eevening College 1973). He obtained his Post Graduate Diploma in Konkani and Technical Training in Refinery Maintenance Scheduling at KOC Kuwait
Mr. D’Souza Worked with the Oil Sector in Kuwait for 16 years as a Materials Coordinator for the refineries. He has visited Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, Holland, England, Greece, Egypt. Bahrain, Bangkok, Singapore, Iraq & Jordan.
He started writing in English at an early age of 11. Short stories and poems published in “The Indian Express”, “Deccan Herald”, “Orbit”, “Arab Times” and “Kuwait Times”
Mr. D’Souza Started writing in Konkani in 1964. His first short-story published in “Poinnari” in 1964; first Novel serialized in Konkani fortnightly “Jhelo” in 1967 and 30 published novels to date. Many of them have seen three editions. He has written more than 100 short stories, satires, columns, film reviews/comments published in various Konkani periodicals. He is a regular contributor to Secular Citizen, NDTV Web Page, Maaibhaas Webpage, Daijidubai Webpage, Woman’s Era. He also penned dialogues for the Konkani Film “Boxanne”
Mr. D’Souza Conducted several Konkani/English literary camps, seminars and panel discussions. Presented papers on Konkani literature at the Goa University, Cochin University, Calicut University and at various Konkani Literature Seminars/Conferences in Karnataka and Goa
He is a member of the evaluation committee of Dr.TMA Pai Foundation Best Konkani Book of the Year Award for several years. Past Member of the Bhasha Samiti of The K.K.Birla Foundation formed to decide the recipient of the Saraswati Sanmaan which carries a cash prize of 5 lacs. Interacted with writers of international renown who had gathered in Mumbai in 1995 for the same purpose. The National Book Trust presented him in their “Meet The Author” program to the Mangalore public in 1996.
His literary awards are: In 1973 Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Goa (Best Book “Hanv Xiataum); in 1988 from Late Louis Mascarenhas Foundation (BestBook “Havn Xiataum”); in 1992 from Dr.TMA Pai Foundation, Manipal (Best Book “Vinchun Kadleli Porza); in 1993 from Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Goa (Best Book “Vinchun Kadleli Porza); in 1994 from Late Louis Mascarenhas Foundation (Best Book”Vinchun Kadleli Porza”); in 1995-97 from Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy (Best Book “Bethlehem”); in 1997-98 from Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy-Literary Award; in 1998 from Sandesha – Konkani Literature Award; and in 2003 from Dajidubai, UAE, Literary Award 2003
His Translations/Transliterations/Website Publications are:
• Novellette “215 Daruwala Estate” Translated into Kannada by late Mr.Gabriel Ageira and published by Jnana Prakashana from Bangalore with a foreword by Dr.Chandrashekar Kambara. The same novellette now appearing in installments on the website Maaibhaas.com.
• “A Cup of Hot Coffee”, translated by the author, selected by Mr.Khuswant Singh and appearing in his collection of “Our Favourite Indian Short Stories.” (Jaico Books). Konkani original also appeared on Maaibhaas Website.
• “Dev, Divll ani Rogath” translated into Hindi by Mr.Vasudev Shanbaugh published by Sahitya Academy in Samakaalin Bharathiya Sahitya under the title “Bhagwan, Mandir Aur Lahoo.”
• “A Collar For Moti” translated into English by the Author published by Sahitya Academy in Prateechi (A Literary Digest of West Indian Languages 1992-93).
• “Agipthaak Pollapoll” transliterated into Nagari by Mr. Pundalik Nayak under a new title “Dirvem” and published by National Book Trust in their anthology of short stories “Samkaalin Konkani Laghukathaa”.
• “A Collar for Moti,” “I Confess,” and “The Paper Woman,” all Konkani originals translated into English by the author have appeared in “The Writing Room” of NDTV.Com. in 2002
• Regular contributor to websites Daijidubai .com and maaibhaas.com
Mr. D’Souza was interviewed by ETV News and CC India on Gulf War. He was recently honoured by the Parish of Our Lady of Milagres as well as the Carmel Ward of the Parish for 40 years of contribution to Konkani literature.
• From 1992 as a lecturer in the Konkani Institute of St.Alyosius preparing students for the PGD in Konkani. Subjects handled were Konkani Prose.
• In 1996 this course was made into a Distant Education course for which notes and papers on History of Konkani language, literature including prose was prepared by me.
• Presently, as a guest lecturer in the St.Aloysius P.U.College lecturing on Basic Theology and Value Based Education.
Mr. D’Souza was a President of the 11th All India Konkani Sahitya Sammelan, 1992, Karwar, former President of the Parent-Teacher Education Council, D.K. , Past President of the Konkani Writers’ Forum, Karnataka and Former President of the St.Aloysius Alumni Association (SACAA)
He is actively involved in many clubs such as Rotary Club of Mangalore, Member of the Board of Directors of YMCA Mangalore, Red Cross Society, Mangalore Chapter, Konkani Writers’ Forum (R) Mangalore, Konkani Bhasha Mandal (R) Mangalore and SACAA.
He was the former editor of “Amar Konkani”, “Rotalore” (Bulletin of the Rotary Club of Mangalore – four terms), Literary editor of “Raknno”, and “The Aloysian”
Mangalorean.com wishes Mr. Edwin D’Souza all the best in his future endeavors!
Ihave read most of the novels from Mr. Edwin. Muja hodthanthle gulob (Roses from my garden) is the best novel from him. I like him the most. God bless you Mr. Edwin